Jail warden tried to strangulate me: Asia Bibi
Last Updated: Tuesday, December 27, 2011, 16:18
Islamabad: Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death under Pakistan's controversial blasphemy law, has claimed that a female jail warden had tried to strangulate her following an argument.

Asia also said she cooks her own food in prison due to fears among authorities that she might be poisoned.

"I live in a confined cell. I am allowed to go out for only 30 minutes every day, and allowed to meet my family for one hour every Tuesday," Asia said in an interview with Masihi Foundation, a Christian group that works for the rights of the minority community.

"I am given raw material to cook for myself, since the administration fears I might be poisoned, as other Christians accused of blasphemy were poisoned or killed in the jail," she said in response to questions sent to her by the rights group.

Asia said authorities had recently suspended a female warden who tried to strangle her after an argument over a "minute issue".

She said Islamic clerics had offered a bounty of about USD 8,000 to anyone who would kill her.

The 45-year-old mother of five is currently on death row in a prison in Punjab.

A court is yet to begin hearing her appeal against her conviction.

Asia was sentenced to death last year after being convicted under the blasphemy law for allegedly insulting Prophet Mohammed.

She denied the charge and said she was framed by a group of Muslim women with whom she had a row.

The women were working in a field with Asia when she was asked to fetch water.

The Muslim women refused to drink the water brought by Asia and, during a subsequent quarrel; she was accused of insulting the Prophet Mohammed.

Asia described the blasphemy law as a "manmade law" that was misused to settle personal vendettas.

She said it "should be repealed or at least amended" as it had "claimed so many innocent lives".

She further said the situation of Christians in Pakistan is "not very good".

The Christians, especially those in villages, are "mistreated, abused and framed for false cases as they cannot afford to fight for their rights".

Asia said she was "assaulted and harassed by the police" after her arrest.

"I was in a state of shock for many days. I fasted and prayed. My family has been in trouble; they have been moving one place to another.

"But I have forgiven the Muslims who put me and my family in this situation," she said.

She said she was praying and fasting to be with her family so that she could "hug my daughters, kiss them".

Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer, who backed a call for Asia to be pardoned, was gunned down in Islamabad by a police guard who said he was angered by the politician's criticism of the blasphemy law.

According to official figures, 131 people are being held in jails across Punjab on blasphemy charges.

Eleven of them have been sentenced to death, including Asia, who was the first woman to be given the penalty.

Though no one has been executed after being convicted under the controversial law, 35 people, including Taseer, who were accused of committing blasphemy or defending those charged with blasphemy, have been killed between 1990 and 2011.


First Published: Tuesday, December 27, 2011, 16:18

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